Kids are spending more time with screen media, and at younger ages, than ever before. With both parents often working, and a decrease in the level of physical activity expected from and demanded of children, it is a common sight for parents to use gadgets for distraction.

Screen time is no longer seen as a one dimensional activity. With gadgets varying from laptops, tablets and phones, these devices are multi-purpose and are essential for existing in the 21st century. However, over-use of these devices by parents and children alike leads to them missing out on essential life experiences. A recent TLF Panel survey conducted on behalf of kids clothing retailer Vertbaudet found that four in five parents believe technology and gadgets are good for kids, aiding in their development. The study found that 37 percent of parents asked said that their child spent between one and two hours a day playing with tech gadgets, and 28 percent said between two- and three hours. Moreover, the study found that 38 percent of two- to five-year-olds own an Android tablet, and 32 percent own an iPad; almost a third (32 percent) of these kids also have a mobile phone.

By the age of seven the average child will have spent a full year of 24-hour days watching recreational screen media, claims Sigman. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they spend in school.


The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video-chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. If you want to introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it’s high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming. As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work as well. You’ll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what types of media are appropriate.

Unstructured playtime is more valuable for a young child’s developing brain than is electronic media. Despite the fact that many digital media programs claim to be educational, children younger than age 2 are more likely to learn and remember information from a live presentation than they are from a video.

 By age 2, children can benefit from certain types of screen time, such as programming with music, movement and stories. However, passive screen time shouldn’t replace reading, playing or problem-solving. Co-view with your child to help your child understand what he or she is seeing and apply it in real life.

Also, it’s crucial to monitor the shows your child is watching and the games or apps he or she is playing to make sure they are appropriate. Avoid fast-paced programming, which young children have a hard time understanding, apps with a lot of distracting content, and violent media. Eliminate advertising on apps, since young children have trouble telling the difference between ads and factual information.It’s telling that Apple’s Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to play with iPads at all. Limiting screen time should be at the front of every parent’s mind – and that includes their own screen time in front of children. Steiner-Adair found that babies showed signs of distress when they looked to a parent for a reassuring connection and discovered the parent is distracted by technology. Her research found that 70 percent of kids think their parents spend too much time on devices, and accuse their parents of double standards.


As your child grows, keep in mind that too much or poor quality screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Loss of social skills
  • Violence
  • Less time for play

Experts suggest that the quality of the media your child is exposed to is more important than the time spent on digital media, or the platform it is broadcasted from.


To ensure quality screen time, consider these tips before allowing your child independent use:

Preview programmes, games and apps before allowing your child to play with them

Use parental controls to block or filter internet content

Make sure your child is close by during screen time so you can supervise his or her activity

Ask your child regularly what programs, games and apps he or she has used during the day

Educate your child about information they may absorb during screen time, such as advertisement.

Set reasonable limits for your child’s screen time, especially if it is hindering his development in other areas.

Meal times should be tech-free, as should be family sit downs and outings. It should be practiced by parents before it can be enforced on kids.

Require your children to charge their devices in a common area outside their bedrooms

Limit your own screen time

Eliminate background TV

Explain to older kids (tweens and teens) appropriate online behavior, and caution them against hazards of cyber-bullying, online harassment, sexting and sharing personal information online. Make sure you are available for any questions or concerns they might have. be open, and encourage them to be so too.

model positive online etiquette yourself.



Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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